Double FIA World Endurance Champion Brendon Hartley will take over driving the #11 SMP Racing BR1 LMP1 car in the two upcoming FIA WEC races at Sebring and Spa-Francorchamps and after it was announced that Jenson Button would be focusing on his Super GT commitments.
Button was originally due to be taking part in the full FIA WEC season but recently announced he would only be present for the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans, leaving a seat empty with the SMP team alongside Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin.
Hartley was announced as a test and development driver for Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow after being left without a Formula 1 drive when Red Bull Toro Rosso dropped him at the end of the 2018 season, and also remains part of the Porsche Formula E development programme as they prepare for their 2019/20 season debut.
Boris Rotenberg, SMP Racing founder announced his delight at being able to add the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans winner to the team for the next two races.
“We welcome Brendon as part of our line-up in the World Endurance Championship. He is a very strong driver, with extensive experience: he won the World Endurance Championship twice, became the winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“We are sure that our joint team will make a great contribution to the future victories. I think it will be interesting for Brendon to drive behind the wheel of our new Russian sport prototype BR1 and compete with rivals in the highest class LMP1.”
Hartley added “I’m very pleased to join SMP Racing for the next two WEC races at Sebring and Spa. The team have all the tools and a great driver roster so I think we have a big opportunity to fight for podiums.
“It marks my return to the WEC and I’m really looking forward to being back in the paddock amongst many familiar faces.”
Mikhail Aleshin hopes that Hartley’s previous experience in the series plus his recent Formula 1 duties can help the team out adding “I think his participation in Formula 1 is also certainly a positive fact, for us as well, because it means that a very experienced driver joins our team.”